Thursday, April 4, 2013

Learning to SCUBA!

We came to Bali hoping to get some relaxing beach time in, but when we walked into Padang Bai we were slightly surprised by its lack of beach. Let me rephrase: there was a beach, but it was being used as a dock for about 100 boats, so it wasn't quite the beach scene we were looking for. We chose Padang Bai because we had read that it was a good place to learn to dive and had some nice beaches, but after seeing the main beach we weren't sure we were going to stay. We sat down to talk it out at a  guesthouse for a while and a little bit more at the restaurant next door, which was also a dive center. We decided eventually to give it a night and see how we felt the next day. Ethan and I really wanted to try scuba diving and Alexis and Shannon could hang out at the "hidden" beach we discovered on the internet while researching beaches nearby. So, we checked into a place a bit off the main beach because it was cheaper and walked over to the hidden beach to see if it was as great as we had read it was. It was pretty cool so the girls decided they could hang there while we did our diving. After the beach we ended up going back to the restaurant/dive center after dinner to see if we could do a "discovery dive" the next day.

When we got there we were greeted by Elena who was really, really nice and talked us through the whole process of the discovery dive and what level of scuba certification it would get us. Since we arrived in Thailand and heard how cheap it was to scuba dive we knew we wanted to try it. So when we decided to go to Bali, where we heard there were great dive sites, we thought it would be a great place to try it out before we took the plunge and got our open water certification. After hearing all the information we decided to go for it. I told her how scared I was of deep water and large fish and she said that there would be three experienced divers there including herself, which made the decision much easier. In fact, she made it sound so appealing that Shannon and Alexis decided to join in! Yay! After we left our info and a deposit with her we played a round of cards and called it a night. We had a big day of scuba ahead!
In the morning we met Elena (who is from Slovakia) and our two dive masters Zdenka and Martin (also from Slovakia) at the swimming pool where we would learn the basics of scuba diving. We donned our scuba gear, which included a full length wetsuit, booties, weight belt, BCD (buoyancy control device) and eye mask. We didn't actually put the BCD (a big vest that inflates and holds your oxygen tank and all your hoses) on until we got in the water, which was a great thing because they are not light! Anyway, once we were in the water we learned how to inflate our vests, breathe through the regulator and do other basic scuba things like clearing water out of our masks. Once we had gone through all the basics, scuba diving seemed a lot less complicated than we had imagined. I was still really nervous to get in the ocean though!
We left the pool and headed for the boat, where they loaded our gear and we hopped on. Well, I tried to hop on but got caught on a rope and fell in front of like 10 people and got about 2 pounds of sand in my wetsuit... it was only slightly embarrassing. Anyway, we got on the boat and headed to our first spot called Blue Lagoon. We put on all our gear and got into the water. The way down was pretty scary, but we could see the bottom, which made it much easier. Once we were at the bottom I felt a lot better about the whole experience, but still opted to hold Elena's hand for the first 10 minutes. We swam around the lagoon for about 35 minutes, but when we surfaced we realized that Zdenka, Martin and Alexis weren't with us. So Elena went back in to find them and about 10 minutes later they joined us on the boat. Alexis was apparently having a mask issue and had to surface early, so Martin and Zdenka went with her and when they came back down they were a bit behind us, which explains why they didn't know when we had surfaced. No harm done though!
Elena, our dive instructor
The second dive we did at another site not far from the first. Everything went really well and we both felt more comfortable under the water. We saw lots of fishes and coral and really enjoyed it. When we got back to the dive center/restaurant, Elena had us write down all the info about our dive including all the animals we saw. After a lengthy chat about our dives and getting open water certified we decided to stay in Padang Bai and do our open water training with Elena over the next two days. We felt very comfortable with her and we would be the only ones in the "class," which sounded awesome. She gave us each a book before we left to read a couple chapters of and answered some questions. Later, we met back up with her to go over the questions and make sure we got them right. That night we went to bed very excited to get started, but sometime during the night Ethan was awoken by what we can only assume was food poisoning. He spent most of the rest of the night in the bathroom...
MSU fan?
In the morning we informed Elena about his issue and she was extremely kind about the whole thing. (E- Elena called the restaurant and had them bring a guava shake to the pool right away for me. She also kept me hydrated on Pocari Sweat water. She swore by both of these for any stomach issues. I couldn't get over how incredibly friendly everyone at OK Divers was.) She assured us we would take it easy and if he needed any breaks, it wouldn't be a problem. In the pool, we learned more skills such as taking our masks off and using our buddies emergency regulator in case we ran out of air. We spent about 3 hours learning and practicing skills in the pool and were even more excited to get back in the ocean when we finished. We had to wait until the next day though for our last two dives. Later that day we had more studying to do and since we finished reading all the chapters, we decided to take all the quizzes and tests in one sitting. It ended up being a long evening, but we were really glad we got them out of the way and that we passed!
The last two dives we went to the same locations, except on the first dive we had to practice a few of the skills we learned in the pool. After we did the skills we spent another 40 minutes or so roaming around and it was awesome. The visibility was perfect and we even saw a little stingray! On the second dive, the visibility wasn't as great but we saw a sea turtle and got to watch it for a while, which made the entire experience worth all the time, studying and money. It was great! With each dive, being under the water was much easier and we were really happy we decided to take on scuba. :] After our second dive we got cleaned up and headed to Kuta (very touristy, Cancun Mexico type of place) to meet up with Shannon and Alexis who went there the day before. When we arrived we found Shannon in a panic because Alexis had come down with some stomach issue too. Our plan was to sleep at the airport, but Alexis was in no condition to do that so we found a place to stay for a few hours until our very early flights. It was quite possibly the most disgusting place we've ever stayed, but it worked in a pinch.

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